Thank Heavens for the French language. It sure makes “Chicken In A Pot” sound like something worthy of serving to a king.

My Poule au Pot is a homemade whole chicken soup with asian herbs and spices thrown in to elevate it from sick-people soup to let’s-invite-people-over soup. Or better yet: let’s eat-it-all-ourselves soup.

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Whatever, it’s Chicken In a Pot and it’s good.

The great thing about this Chicken in a Pot is that it’s: easy, nourishing, colorful, and it makes tasty leftovers. Nothing is canned or pre-fab. All you need is a chicken, some water, some vegetables, some herbs – et voilà! – you have Chicken in a Pot. Or rather, Poule au Pot.

Now, I’m lucky because I live right next to a Vietnamese grocery store that sells cool things like: won ton wrappers, kaffir limes, lemon grass, thai basil, thai chives, galanga, steamed pork buns, and a bunch of other long leaf herbs I haven’t gotten around to exploring yet. I just buy stuff and toss stuff it into my poule au pot and see what happens.

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Galanga (pictured left), you might be familiar with now that Whole Foods carries it regularly, is a wonderful form of ginger. To me and my overactive tastebuds, it tastes of eucalyptus, ginger, and cedar. I like to slice it and toss it in the broth to simmer. I wouldn’t try eating it whole. Very woody.

Kaffir lime (picutred right) looks like a small bumpy hand grenade and its zest is even more explosive – sort of lime tasting with a strong furniture polish overtone. Lemon Pledge to be exact. The fruit is also powerful, but I normally stick to the zest. Just a sprinkle over top the before serving.

Thai chives (pictured center) are fatter and stronger in flavor than their normal counter part and I use them in place of green onion. Be careful when storing these in the refrigerator because everything will take on their flavor; butter and eggs included. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you were hoping for buttered toast and jam in the morning sans onions.

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I simmer my Chicken in a Pot and then when I’m minutes away from serving toss in bok choy, baby corns, mushrooms, or whatever else makes my soup pretty and nutritious.

There’s another more personal reason why I’m really in love with this recipe and it’s not just because I don’t have an oven at home…

I eat two staff meals at the restaurant I cook at and sometimes I go for weeks without eating lean protein or green vegetables. Sounds crazy right? I mean, I cook at a world renowned restaurant. I bet you thought I munch on caviar and truffles all day.

Well, not exactly.

The other day, I turned to a cook I work with and I asked him when was the last time he ate something green. He couldn’t remember. Neither could I. We vowed to eat nothing but fruits and vegetables over the weekend.

Staff meals consist of the 4 “other” French food groups: starch, protein, fat, and salt.

I’ll give you some examples: mashed potatoes (with a pound of butter) and Toulouse sausage. Or buttered pasta with tripe stew. Or cerveaux (brains) with creamy potatoes au gratin. Or canned cabbage (is this a vegetable?) with poitrine de porc.

Here’s what my California body prefers: lean protein, herbs with anti-oxidants, steamed greens, fresh vegetables, NO FAT.

So while your enjoying the most amazing 3-star meal on earth in the dining room, I’m eating farm hand food in the kitchen. Ah well, that’s the breaks. I’ll tell you, the young French cooks eat it up like it was going out of style.

Cailfornia dreamin’, my French/Asian Poule au Pot really hits the spot. TRY IT!

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Poule au Pot Façon ‘Asiatique’

Serves 4 people

1 whole organic chicken parted (drumstick, breast, thigh, wing), plus carcass chopped
1 medium yellow onion diced
1 large carrot thickly sliced on diagnonal
Water to cover chicken by 1inch (expensive, huh?)
10 pepper corns
1/2 bunch parsley stalks
1/2 bunch basil stalks
2 stalks lemon grass, split
Galanga sliced (about 2 inches)
1 box baby yellow corns
3 baby bok choy sliced in half
Salt and pepper to taste

For garnish:
1/2 bunch Thai chives minced
Zest of 1/2 kaffir lime
1 Red thai piment, for hella spice if desired
Basil and parsley leaves

1. Part chicken (breasts, drumsticks, thighs, and wings) and set aside. With chicken cavity remove any inner organs and rinse out any blood (it will turn soup cloudy), chop into three large sections and set aside with chicken parts.
2. In a large pot put all the chicken parts and cover with cold water by 1 inch. The broth will only have as much flavor as the quantity of chicken so don’t over do it here with water. Cover by 1INCH!!!
3. Add sliced carrots, chopped onion, parsley stalks, basil stalks, pepper corns, sliced galanga, and lemon grass to pot. Turn pot on to high heat and boil.
4. Once soup boils skim the foam off the top. This is all the impurities that rise to the top and it must be removed. Don’t worry about the glistening fat, that will add flavor, but get off all that weird looking whitish-brownish stuff. That’s bad.
5. Turn down heat to low and simmer slowly until chicken is cooked.
6. If you have the time, turn the heat all the way off and cool in the fridge. The soup always tastes better a few hours later – or even the next day. When you reheat it, you can skim off any fat that you don’t want.
7. Re-heat and add in any quick cooking vegetables like bok choy, baby corns, or quartered mushrooms. Simmer until ready to serve. Garnish with kaffir lime zest and Thai chives and spicy red piments.

Note: I add the chicken parts with the skin. You can remove it easily before serving because it will come right off, or serve it with and let your guests remove it if desired. It’s part of the look, so don’t be too worried about it.